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Sympathy - It Is Creeping Back Here

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well...for me, acceptance of the past has had to do with 3 things.

1. the realization that I am not what has happened to me, I am what is left over. that is actually what my pen name is from, fallout. it really was not a fun realization the first time it hit, because it seemed like despite all the monumental struggles, i was only left as these little shreds. i felt like in a fair world i was supposed to be, i don't know, bigger somehow. However, i've been learning to see my present self as valuable and beautiful ever since, which is productive.

2. Similarly...I can't continue to base my self esteem on the severity of the trials I have faced. My self worth used to depend solely on "how bad i had it", a protection mechanism I developed when insensitive people were belittling me. However, if I let it stay that way I will never heal. I'm learning to value myself in other ways, and learning that I don't have to endure lots of punishment to be a worthwhile person. I have to do that if I want to leave the punishment behind.

3. I can't wait around thinking I am supposed to be reimbursed for all the bad things i've lived. i think that's the sense in which sympathy doesn't help at all, because life doesn't work that way. if you fight on, you only win another chance at success, another day where anything can happen, good or bad...not some guaranteed reward. maybe my view is at odds with people who believe in karma, but this has just been the reality i've needed to swallow to move forward.

Empathy is different, it's letting someone know you feel for them because you truly understand. Empathy simply lets people know they are not alone, and that they matter. That helps, and generally provides a boost to people who are trying to find their way through this mess.
I will most likely take some flack for resurrecting this old thread, but IMHO sympathy is starting to creep back into the forum, and I thought this thread would be helpful. Sympathy just doesn't work, it holds a person in the victim mode, and they can't/won't move forward. Of course, that's just my opinion.
Too much "sympathy" can hold a person in victim mode, but sympathizing with someone's feelings can provide validation and allow them to accept those feelings and move on. For example, if I believe that my actions "caused" the abuse then I am self-blaming. When I realize that I didn't cause the abuse and someone sympathizes with that realization, then I can move from self-blame and towards recovery. Just a thought.
That would be empathizing than sympathizing then. Sympathy you feel sorry for (self/another), empathy you feel for another / understand / validate their words or emotion.

Sympathy has valid times for use, being immediate time of loss / trauma / reading for the first time a traumatic event. After the fact, sympathy is no longer helpful and becomes a hindrance towards recovery and moving on with life. This is where empathy is essential, but not sympathy.
I agree with Anthony - there is a very FINE line, yet sympathy and empathy are worlds apart.... theyre very different.

Best way I can explain how *I* see them are :

Sympathy = 'I feel very sorry you are in your shoes' - And my sense of the rational doesn't matter. Consider me your Kleenex tissue - I am feeling things like 'how dare they'... 'I feel pity for you', etc

Empathy = I am going to place myself IN your shoes with a sense of objectivity. Thus, not being so blinded by pity - I will place myself in your shoes and understand your argument, whilst still maintaining a sense of objectivity and the 'bigger picture'.

Sympathy = youre right, I feel so sorry for you
Empathy = Whilst I can understand this must have been quite painful - I can see the forest, and not just the trees
Just as a personal aside - and no one has to agree with me :

I don't like when people give me sympathy. It makes me feel very powerless. I don't see any reason why someone should feel sorry for me. Despite what has placed me in this position I would much prefer someone say - 'you have seen a lot and been through some very tough things - and you're alive. And you're strong'. I'm uncomfortable with the idea of someone pitying me. I don't even want to pity myself. I'd rather lose the subjectivity which goes hand in hand with emotions like pity, and regain some objectivity - seeing myself from a little further away and saying 'wow, it's actually pretty amazing you're still standing'.

I've only been working with my current therapist for a couple of weeks and it has done absolute wonders. It has been SO hard. I barely sleep the night before a session and I really don't WANT to go. But I force myself to go. Because I don't want to spend the rest of my life feeling sorry for myself - no way! Sympathy is not a healthy emotion for me - its a very EASY one. But it's not particularly productive. I don't go to therapy so somebody can hold my hand and go 'ohhhhh that mustve have been awful - let's cry together'. I go to therapy so I can hear 'its ok if you cry - you are SO entitled to cry....... and when you're done, we're gonna work on what we are going to DO about that'. I am personally very grateful for my therapist and she comes at me from a sense of empathy. I'm not treated like a victim to be pitied - but rather a person with a LOT of strength and wisdom as a result of what has happened. Frankly, I wouldn't pay someone a lot of money to cry for/with me - I can do that for free. I'd rather pay them to ~understand~ why I'm crying and go about the business of fixing it.
I have to agree with you superjen. I was recently in hospital following an O/D. Once I was 'better' (physically), I saw a psychiatric nurse, who was so pitying and sympathetic that I seriously wanted to punch her. (And I don't have any anger issues!). She just asked me questions then sat there with this pathetic look on her face, saying "oh dear, that must have been horrible for you", and "I can see why you might find it hard to cope, it must be very hard". I didn't want her sympathy, I needed her help to get me to a better place. Anyway, we got no-where fast. I got to the point, where she was so nauseating, I said what she needed to hear to get me out of there.
Pity and sympathy are close cousins it seems. I would take sympathy over pity but empathy is a more equal acknowledgment of our mutual humanness when given. Sympathy seems to put us in a lower status (as the receiver) than the person dispensing it, but then I guess Hallmark wouldn't sell many "empathy" cards. ; )
The Hallmark thing made me giggle and think of a scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (was watching it last night). The Sympathy-gram shows up at the door and the sister answers.

*Woman In Nurse's Outfit, singing*
'I heard that you were feeling ill
Headache, fever, and a chill
I came here to restore your luck
'Cause I'm the nurse who likes to.... *door slams*

That would make a cracker of a Hallmark Card. One that plays the music when you open it.
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